Easy (and Kid-Friendly!), Chicken Weeknight Meals

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

As the primary meal-maker in my family, I love meals that are easy to prepare. Meals that are time-consuming to prepare usually only get made on the weekends. Weeknights are for easy meals! Today, I’ll share some of my go-to favorites. Maybe they’ll suit your family as well!

The big thing that I like about many of these meals is that they have plenty of vegetables in them, so it cuts down on the number of side dishes I’ll make!

Meal Idea #1: Chicken Tacos (from Budget Savvy Diva)

Serves: 4-6

Tip: Since this recipe doesn’t take all day to cook, it’s a good one to make on a Sunday afternoon, pack away in the refrigerator and just reheat the meat for a quick weeknight meal.

Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 pounds of skinless chicken breast – frozen or thawed
1 packet of taco seasoning (or you can make your own)
1 can (10) ounces of Rotel
Taco stuff — tortillas, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, whatever your family likes.

Directions:
1. Set your crock pot to low and place taco seasoning, chicken and Rotel together. Mix.
2. If chicken is frozen, it will take about six hours. If it was already thawed, it will be done in 3-4.
3. Take two forks and pull apart the chicken and mix it into the awesome juices.
4. If there’s not enough liquid, add a little chicken stock.
5. Serve on tortillas and add the toppings of your choice.

Meal Idea #2: Chicken Alfredo Bake

Serves: 4

Tip: The hardest part of this meal is the prep work — you have 3 pots going with pasta, veggies and chicken. If you had time the night before, you could steam the veggies, cook the chicken and boil the pasta and assemble it together. The day you want to serve it, just pop it in the oven when you come home from work. 30 minutes later, you’ll have a great meal!

Ingredients:
1/2 pound chicken, cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bag California mix frozen veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)
1 jar Alfredo sauce
8 ounces mozzerella cheese
8 ounces bow tie pasta
Garlic powder

Directions:
1. Boil pasta noodles until al dente.  Steam veggies according to the package.
2. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and brown chicken with some garlic powder.
3. Once pasta is done, drain.
4. In an 8×8 or 9×9 inch dish, combine chicken, alfredo, veggies together.
5. Top with mozzarella cheese.
6. Bake at 350 until cheese is brown for about 30 minutes.

Meal Idea #3: Jambalaya (from Pennies On A Platter)

Serves: 4 (easily)

Tip: To make this easier, when I’m preparing one of them, I really prepare two or three of them. While I have the rice and spices out, it’s easy to measure them one or two more times and store them in a baggie until next time. Also, if you brown chicken for another recipe, just brown a little more and store in the frig until you’re ready to make this. Brown once — make two meals!

If you’re making this for little ones and are afraid it will be too spicy, just omit the cayenne pepper — this dish can pack a punch!

Ingredients:
1 cup long-grain white rice
3 Tablespoons dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 Tablespoon beef bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme, garlic powder, black pepper
1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and salt
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups water
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, such as andouille, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound chicken

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl or canister, combine the rice, onion, parsley, bouillon, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt and bay leaf. Stir to fully mix. (This mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.)

2. In a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the rice mixture with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Discard the bay leaf and serve while hot.

Meal Idea #4: Saucy Chicken Broccoli Bake (from Tammy’s Recipes)

Serves: 8

Tip: If you make any other dishes that use rice during the week, make twice the amount and just reheat the rice for this meal. This actually makes quite a bit, so I’ll often half the recipe, but this also makes wonderful leftovers!

Ingredients:
16 ounces frozen broccoli florets (or about 3 cups fresh broccoli florets)
3 cups cooked cubed chicken
pepper
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup chicken broth
paprika, optional
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups rice (uncooked measurement), cooked according to package instructions (should make 4 1/5 cups of cooked rice)

Instructions:
1. In covered saucepan, cook broccoli in water just until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. In greased 9 x 13 baking dish, spread broccoli across bottom and sprinkle chicken evenly on top. Generously sprinkle black pepper over chicken.

3. In mixing bowl, combine cream soups, mayonnaise, curry powder, and chicken broth, whisking until smooth. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle paprika on top if desired.

4. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Spread cheese on top and bake 5-10 minutes longer, until melted and slightly browned.

5. While casserole is baking, cook rice. Serve the chicken and broccoli mixture over hot rice.

Meal Idea #5: Creamy Chicken Pockets (from Pennies on A Platter)

Tip: This is another one that you can make most of it the night before. Just brown the chicken (or use some that you had leftover from some other meals!) and combine the ingredients to make the insides of the pockets. When you’re ready to make the meal, spread out the crescent rolls, stuff them, and bake them! I leave the breadcrumbs off the top of them just to make it even easier.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 small chicken breasts, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, optional

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken with the onions and garlic.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon softened butter until smooth. Stir in the cooked chicken, onions and garlic. Add the salts, pepper and milk. Mix well.

4. Separate the crescent roll dough into the eight triangles. Dollop a tablespoon of filling into the center of each triangle and fold the corners up to seal. Press and seal firmly. Place on ungreased baking sheet or stone and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

5. (optional) Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.

6. Bake for 11 – 13 minutes, or until golden brown.

To heat up leftovers, bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 10 minutes.

What are your favorite, easy weeknight meals?